Saturday 25 February 2023

Janet Howson talks to us about A Cue for Murder


A Cue for Murder follows on from Dramatic Episodes as it is dealing with the same drama group with the same characters. This time they are rehearsing for A Murder Mystery Evening to be put on at one of the member's golf club. Again there is a chapter for each of the characters relating the events in their lives and how this impacts on the rehearsals for the play.

Having each episode published on CafeLit encouraged me to keep on writing until I had told each individual story.

My role as a drama teacher helped me with my writing but my involvement with amateur drama groups for many many years was really my greatest insight into being able to confidently write the novellos. This gave me knowledge of the group dynamics, the things that can go wrong, the rehearsal schedule and the camaraderie I had personally experienced.

At the moment I am writing short stories for competitions. I will hopefully have these eventually published on CafeLit.

Monday 20 February 2023

Hobbies for Writers


So, if you’re living the dream, do you even bother about hobbies? I think you do. Because you have to get some perspective.  If as a writer you’re holed up in your garret all of the time, what will you have to write about?

Activities I enjoy – arguably writing related

  • Browsing book shops
  • Attending book events
  • Going  to the theatre
  • Reading
  • Watching TV  (absorbing story another way)
  • Society of Authors events
  • SCBWI events

Activities that get me out of the house and amongst people

  • U3A groups – languages, curry and beer, the odd special event
  • Theatre club (which also relates to writing)

Keeping body and soul together

·         Cooking and baking from scratch

·         Exercise – whether at home, at the gym or in the swimming pool

·         Gardening

Singing in a choir

This is probably the big one for me. It is so different form writing. You are with people, instead of being alone. You work with people instead of trying to be completely different from others. It gives you a great feeling of belonging. It is good exercise and you certainly learn to breathe well.  There is something quite magical about feeling the music flow through your body.  That certainly lifts your mood.

I’ve been a choir member now since October 2007. I had to have a few weeks off last year when I had a major operation. We managed to keep going through lock down with the help of Zoom.

And I sing tenor. In other scenarios I’ve been an alto or even a soprano. I’m delighted with tenor. It suits my voice and we have some nice parts.

So yes, writers can have hobbies and they are important.   

Tuesday 7 February 2023

Allison Symes talks to us about her involvement in Evergreen


Allison Symes - Evergreen Blog


How did you hear about our competition?

I was at the Bridge House Publishing Celebration Event the previous year and had "early bird" notice of what the topic was going to be. I am a long term follower/writer for Bridge House so know to keep an eye out for the annual competition. I often take part in these and have had the great joy of being published in some of the resulting anthologies. Would like that to continue! Indeed, my first story in print was in one of the early anthologies. A treasured moment, that!

What inspired you about the theme?

I like the way you could play with the words "ever green". For my story, I used the colour element as well here and the topic immediately suggested to me a character, not young but not old, still capable of coming up with surprises when they needed to and still capable of teaching those needing it a well deserved lesson. That thought inspired my title - Never Old - Ever Green and Good To Go. The theme was such a great one to run with and I had a lot of fun with this.

How did you get to write short stories?

I started out in writing by trying to write a novel. I know - talk about run before you can walk, right?! Having said that, I have always loved reading short stories as well as long ones, so it was natural to me to have a go at writing short stories myself at some point. What has come as a lovely surprise was the discovery of flash fiction, the even shorter short story, where I'm published too. I also was trying to build up publication credits long before having any books out so writing short stories and getting into the habit of submitting them for competitions helped a lot here. Short stories are great fun to write and I love the challenge of writing to smaller word counts.

In no more than three sentences can you summarise what made you become a writer?

This is simply due to a lifelong love of books and stories, encouraged at a very early age by my late mother. Why? Because it led to my ending up wanting to write some of my own. (She got to see my first one  in print too, another treasured memory).

What else are you working on?

I've submitted my third flash fiction collection and am working on a potential fourth one. I am always blogging (for various online magazines, including a US based one where I'm their flash fiction editor). I usually have a story on the go ready either for a competition I'm aiming at or where I'm adding it to my stock of stories. If a suitable competition comes up later in the year, as if often will, I can rummage through my stock of stories and have something suitable I can polish reasonably quickly and submit. I also have a long term non-fiction project on the go and I hope to make much more progress with that in 2023. I've started running workshops in the last year or so and am often preparing material for those too.

Monday 6 February 2023

Malina Douglas talks to us about being published in Evergreen


 How did you hear about our competition?

Through an online search for calls for submissions.
What inspired you about the theme?
I like that Evergreens symbolise something that endures, a beacon of green against the white of the snow. It reminds us that we will get through our struggles, and despite everything, we can go on.  
My story in this anthology, A Tear in the Cloud, contains that evergreen hope. 
How did you get to write short stories?
In childhood I created stories in my imagination and drew them. In the first year of school I started to write them down, and filled four notebooks that I bound together. At around eight I started creating miniature books with the intention of making my own library. The smallest one was half the size of my thumb!
In no more than three sentences can you summarise what made you become a writer?
I grew up nourished by stories, especially Greek and Norse mythology. Ever since I started writing down my own stories, I knew I wanted to be a writer. 
What else are you working on?    
I've just completed a manuscript of historical fiction and submitted it to publishers.
I also just finished compiling and editing an anthology of short stories called Winter Enchantment, coming out on the 13th of February! An anthology to transport the reader to winter wonderlands ranging from Japan to Finland to Iceland and encounters and elusive beings, goddesses and ghosts, with stories from fifteen different authors.
With these projects complete, I've returned to writing short stories and flash fiction for a novella-in-flash in progress. 

Find updates and author interviews on Malina's website:

Sunday 5 February 2023

Sally Angell talks to us about Evergreen and her writing


I heard about the competition from the Bridge House website
The theme inspired me because there are so many meanings to the word Evergreen, both historical and modern.
I have always written short stories, from when I was a child and was always sending stories to magazines etc as a teenager (had to be resuscitated when I got rejections! tho I got encouraging letters even back then).  I continued into adulthood, learnt to be more crafted, and finally won a couple of short story competitions and went on from there. I love the short story genre.
I always felt I was a writer, and loved words and language. It was natural to express my feelings in writing. And I loved creating magazines and plays for my family. 
I am working on a collection of my short stories at the moment.

Saturday 4 February 2023

Jenny Palmer on Evergreen and her writing journey

 Jenny at a book signing at the Pendle Heritage Centre.


I heard about the Evergreen competition via the Bridge House newsletter.

Blue and green  were always my favourite colours but it took me a while to feel okay about that.

After working and travelling abroad for many years, I settled in London and joined a writing class at Centerprise bookshop in Dalston, London, called Night Writers, where I was encouraged to start writing short stories. I went on to work as a freelance editor and co-edited four anthologies of short stories for The Women’s Press and Serpent’s Tail.

This led me on to wanting to focus on expressing myself through my own writing. I have since written two memoirs of my own life, two family histories, going back 400 years to the time of the Pendle Witches and early Quakers as well as a book of short stories and a book of poems.

I am currently working on publicising my latest book ‘Witches, Quakers and Non-conformists.’ I perform poetry at Open Mic  events and write short stories for the Cafelit website. I am currently preparing a second collection of short stories, which I hope to publish next year.


Jenny Palmer Author on Facebook

Jenny Palmer @


Friday 3 February 2023

Liz Cox and Evergreen


I originally heard about the competition through my writing group Bangor Cellar Writing Group. From then on I was familiar with the competition and looked out for it each year on your website

I think I was inspired by the possibility of the longevity implied in the word Evergreen. It is also something which is fresh and new and also continuing. 

 I took an English Literature with Creative Writing degree at Bangor University in 2000 and then subsequently the Diploma in Creative Writing with the Dept for Life Long Learning (now defunct) at Bangor University. I like the medium of short stories, trying to encapsulate one moment in time into a credible story. This evolved from a Local Authority afternoon class. I had always been interested in writing and these leisure classes rekindled my interest.

I wanted to be a writer because it takes me away from everyday things. I can get lost in my words and visit new worlds. I felt I had something to say and wanted to communicate that.

I continue to work on my poetry and I have a novel completed but ready for more drafts. I have another couple of novels in the pipeline which I am working on and  short stories in various stages of completion. I am considering various competition entries.

Thursday 2 February 2023

Have I made a Difference?


We all like to think we have and in particular we writers hope that our words might have.I can now tell you three little stories of where I think I may have had a little impact.

Gavin and the Isolation Room

After I gave up the day job in order to concentrate more on my writing I still did some supply teaching and in particular for the school where I’d previously been head of languages.  Most Fridays I would run their isolation room. This was where students were parked for the day rather than being suspended. They arrived at school a little earlier than the rest and went home a little later. They were allowed breaks and bathroom visits but not at the same time as the other students. We ordered a “room service” lunch from the school canteen. .

They beavered away all day at work I extracted form a huge cupboard. There were lessons for each subject for each year group. Sometimes teachers supplied very precise things they wanted certain students to do.  I could take my laptop with me and get on with my own work. 

By about two o’clock we were all fidgety, me included. They would often ask me what I was doing. I would explain about writing, drafting editing and about the publishing process.

One day Gavin met me in the corridor. “I’m not in isolation today,” he boasted. “But I’ll carry your laptop to the isolation room if you like.”

He was very chatty as we walked along the corridors. “Have you found a publisher yet for that book you read some of to us?” he asked.

“No yet,” I replied.  “It isn’t quite right yet.”

“What will you do if you can’t get a publisher to take it?”

“I’ll be a bit upset, I guess.”

 “And if it is published and you get bad reviews?”

Well, if nothing else I’d taught Gavin something about the publishing industry.

Competing with Harry Potter

I would allow the students to stop working at what would be break time.  They weren’t at this point allowed to talk but I would let them read a book instead of working. Oddly they would more often than not opt to carry on working. Yet they did seem to like me reading to them, even though many of the stories I read to them then were really for a younger age group.

One day Rachel came along with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire under her arm. She was a frequent visitor to the Isolation Room but this week she was the only student. She was never any trouble. In fact the students weren’t on the whole. Only once did I have to call for extra help with an aggressive student.

Also, when I looked in the cupboard for some English work for her it transpired that she had competed everything,  I happened to have  a hard draft copy of one of my novels with me and I asked her to write down what she’d found out about the characters in the first four chapters. This would be useful to me as well: had she understood what I’d meant her to understand? Was my writing working?

Break time came along. She was now working on maths.

“You can read your Harry Potter book now,” I said.

“Actually, can I read some more of your book?” she asked.


Lines in the Sand

I had a short piece of fiction published in this anthology. The book was a protest response to the war in Iraq and contained short stories and extracts from longer pieces by many diverse writers.  I based a school workshop about tolerance and empathy on my story. I dressed up as one of the characters and invited the children to ask me questions.

We sold copies of the book.

At the end of the day the headteacher came up to me very excited.

“Alex had bought a copy of the book.  He enjoyed your story and he wants to read more like it. This is wonderful.  He’s our most reluctant reader.”

Even if I eventually write a bestseller that enables me to buy a house with a book-shaped swimming pool I’ll remain proud of these three moments.               

Wednesday 1 February 2023

News 1 February 2023


A different sort of book event

Many book events start at about 6.30 in the evening and go on until 8.00. Last night I was on one that started at 6.00 and went on until 10.00. And it all went very well.

It was hosted by James Ward, one of the writers in the Evergreen anthology.  It was held in the Abel Heywood, a delightful establishment in an historic building in the heart of Manchester’s Northern Quarter.  We had one of those deals where we got the event space free as people were buying drinks and food. I spoke to the barman and he confirmed that this had worked well for them.

Fifty-three people attended, the majority of them being under the age of thirty. They were generous in buying books. This was so very pleasing as a lot of them were students who juggle study and part-time jobs in order to survive.   

We had six people read, myself included, and James of course.  My goodness, there are some very good young writers out there.     

As we finished I heard whispers that they would like to do this again.  I hope they will. I managed to talk to them about the Bridge House imprints and I’m hoping to see some submissions from them soon.        



Current writing

I’m now getting very absorbed in my new Peace Chid book. The story is really taking off though it will be some time before I’m finished.

You can read a review of an excellent play I saw at Salford’s Lowry theatre.

I can really recommend this play. It is on tour, so you may be able to find a performance near you.   

If you are interested in my YA SF, the The Tower, part of the Peace Child series, there is a new way you can buy this at

I’m also making sets of cards for people to use: Perfect Plotting and How to Pray. The latter is not nearly as religious as you might think – though it can be if you wish it to. The unit cost at the moment is high but if they work I can get that cost down by producing multiple copies.  


On My Blog

I have featured several other authors on my blog this month. Dawn Bush and Sharon Zajdman  tell us about their writing lives. Evergreen authors Chris Simpson and Jan Moran Neil tell us how they came to write their story for the collection.

I address that question dreaded by all writers:  Where do you get your ideas from?    


The Young Person’s Library

I’ve added just one book this month:   

Cats by Emily Gravett The illustrations of cats in this book are delightful. This picture book will help the pre-school child with their counting and colours. There is a lot of fun in the pictures. If the youngster is ready to learn to read they will find some help from this book.   


Current reading recommendation

This month I’m recommending The Olive Tree: A Personal Journey Through Mediterranean Olive Groves by Carol Drinkwater      

This is an account of Carol Drinkwater’s journey to find out more about the olive tree, including its history.

I have to admire Drinkwater. Not only is she still in touch with her acting career, she is a prolific writer and an olive farmer as well. And she makes many journeys alone as a woman, including visiting Algeria, which is very difficult to negotiate.

This account gives you pause for thought. The olive tree can make deserts fertile but because of the way it is farmed, in order to produce the plumpest olives, it can drain water resources in areas where water tends to be scarce anyway. Drinkwater hates using pesticides but there is little else to do against a fly that can get in and destroy a whole crop. One solution is the introduction of another fly that preys on the first one but that isn’t interested in the crop.  Fine, but that means introducing a new being into the ecological environment and may cause an imbalance.                

The text is engaging and reads more like a novel than a documentary. My inner critic that never shuts up spotted the odd awkward phrase here and there and bizarrely opening speech marks are absent in random places. You are forewarned so you can ignore that irritation. The text remains enjoyable.

Feisty Carol Drinkwater brings us an honest, fascinating and critical account in The Olive Tree.  



Note: these are usually mobi-files to be downloaded to a Kindle.  Occasionally there are PDFs. This month I’m offering a Kindle file and a PDF of Girl in a Smart Uniform. Mobi-files have stopped working on some Kindle devices, so we’re gradually changing over to the newer type of file. This is one of the new files.

"Girl in a Smart Uniform" is the third book in the Schellberg Cycle, a collection of novels inspired by a bundle of photocopied letters that arrived at a small cottage in Wales in 1979. The letters give us first-hand insights into what life was like growing up in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s.

It is the most fictional of the stories to date, though some characters, familiar to those who have read the first two books, appear again here. Clara Lehrs, Karl Schubert and Dr Kühn really existed. We have a few, a very few, verifiable facts about them. The rest we have had to find out by repeating some of their experiences and by using the careful writer's imagination.

Gisela adores her brother Bear, her gorgeous BDM uniform, and her little half-brother Jens. She does her best to be a good German citizen, and is keen to help restore Germany to its former glory. She becomes a competent and respected BDM leader. But life begins to turn sour. Her oldest brother Kurt can be violent, she soon realises that she is different from other girls, she feels uncomfortable around her mother’s new lover, and there is something not quite right about Jens. It becomes more and more difficult to be the perfect German young woman.

We know that BDM girls set fire to the house in Schellberg Street but got the children out first. This story seeks to explain what motivated the girls to do that, and what happened to them afterwards.

I read Girl in a Smart Uniform, I really enjoyed it! Well written, informative and very subtle about the Holocaust.

Bottom of Form

Top of Form

Girl in a Smart Uniform was a read that flowed easily but there are moments full of tension. The letters between the girls is a perfect way of expressing the history and feelings and emotions and problems of teenagers they experience of growing up in Germany during the war

Bottom of Form



Find out more. Grab your copy and lots of other freebies:

Note, you may have to copy and paste the link.   

And please, please, please leave a review, perhaps on Amazon, Good Reads and / or Story Graph, when you’ve finished.    

Note: Normally my books and the books supplied by the imprints I manage sell for anything from £0.99 to £10.99.  Most on Kindle are about £2.99 and the average price for paperback is £7.00. Writers have to make a living. But I’m offering these free samples so that you can try before you buy.


The Schellberg Project

The posts may be helpful for teachers who are familiar with the Schellberg stories or who are teaching about the Holocaust.  They may also be interesting for other readers of historical fiction.

Sometimes I also write about what might be useful to other writers.


I’ve added two posts this month. I’m still looking at the question of refugees in Would Jesus, Mary and Joseph have had to go to Rwanda? – posted the day after Epiphany. 


And also news of my latest Schellberg book which is just creeping out into existence: Face to Face with the Führer More news will be coming out about that in the next few weeks.



Some notes about my newsletters and blogs

They do overlap a little but here is a summary of what they all do.


Bridge House Authors For all those published by Bridge House, CaféLit, Chapeltown or The Red Telephone or interested in being published by us. General news about the imprints. News for writers. Links to book performance. Sign up here.


The Bridgetown  Café Bookshop where you can buy my book and books published by Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, Chapeltown Books and The Red Telephone.  Visit us here.     


Chapeltown Books News about our books. Sign up here.


The Creative Café Project News about the project and CaféLit – for the consumer rather than for the producer.  Sign up here.   


Gill’s News: News about my writing, The Schellberg Project, School Visits and Events. Book recommendations and giveaways. Find it here.   


Pushing Boundaries, Flying Higher News about conferences and workshops to do with the young adult novel. (infrequent postings) Sign up here.  


Red Telephone Books News about our books and our authors. Sign up here.


A Publisher’s Perspective Here I and some other editors blog as a publisher. Access this here.   


The Creative Café Project Listings and reviews of creative cafés. See them here.   


CaféLit Stories Find these here


Gill James Writer All about writing and about my books. View this here.


Gill’s Recommended Reads Find information here about books that have taken me out of my editor’s head and a reminder of the ones I’ve highlighted in this newsletter.    


Gill’s Sample Fiction Read some of my fiction here.


The House on Schellberg Street All about my Schellberg project. Read it here.


Writing Teacher All about teaching creative writing.  Some creative writing exercises. Access this here.  I also invite other writers to provide prompts and work for critique.     


Books Books Books Weekly offers on our books and news of new books. Find them here. 


The Young Person’s Library The children’s book catalogue. Access it here.


Fair Submissions  Find it here.   

Opportunities for writers are added several times a day. Roughly once a month I send it out to a list. If you would like to be on that list, sign up here.  

Happy reading and writing.